Today’s customers don’t care where your business is located. To them, it’s on the other end of their mobile device or telephone line, or computer, or even a physical location. To be where your customers are, your customer service should recognize that those customers are in charge. That’s why many companies are developing an omni-channel customer experience strategy, but is that the best long-term direction?
It’s no secret the coveted millennial consumers are often the target of the omni-channel customer service approach in a desire to connect with the population of digital native consumers. But a surprising number of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and other generations also make buying decisions moving between and among multiple channels during the buyer’s journey.
Buyers may begin a search on their computer, drawn in by an e-mail offer, then move on to their phone as they shop, and then make a phone call to get more information, and place the final order via a mobile app. That merchandise may be delivered to the home or picked up in store, whether it’s a new phone or a pizza and a dozen wings.
Today, the customer is in charge. They want to choose how to be able to interact with you, and if a company doesn’t have a touch point that fits their needs at the moment, they will find one that does. Companies that take steps to engage customers in whatever channels they’re most comfortable with are better positioned to solve customers’ problems.
The majority of consumers expect to have multiple access points to your business. At this point in time, 73 percent of consumers access customer service by telephone, 67 percent through companies’ self-service websites, according to market research firm Forrester, and 58 percent by email and 43 percent through instant message or online chat.
Millennials use even more channels; 44 percent of consumers aged 18 to 23 seek use text messaging for customer service, and 43 percent engage through Twitter. By contrast of consumers aged 47 to 56, only, 16 percent use text message and 13 percent avail themselves of Twitter. Businesses should have two main priorities right now, providing the best customer experience you can and maintaining the highest levels of security possible.
Those companies that come to understand and deploy the value of an omni-channel customer experience strategy will gain a competitive advantage. Embracing channel diversity through adoption of an “omni-channel” customer experience delivers an array of bottom-line benefits. Market research firm Aberdeen Group reports that companies that practice omni-channel customer service realize achieve 91 percent year-over-year increases (6.5 percent versus 3.4 percent) in customer retention. That performance translates into superior financial results, including year-over-year increases in customer profitability (6.1 percent versus 1 percent) and customer lifetime value (3.4 percent compared to -0.7 percent).
Of course most companies can’t fulfill the promise inherent in the word “Omni,” which is Latin for “all things.” No company can truly engage in ALL channels. That’s not really possible, and it’s not worth the investment to attempt to meet that standard. Companies can’t be all things to all customers and shouldn’t even try to.
Customers expect to be able to have access to the same information across all the available channels. That means the website and mobile app should have the same information as the call center. And the account information and customer preferences are captured and available, no matter where the customer makes contact.
The key is to understand your customers, and know which channels offer the greatest connections. You will likely have to invest in different channels to reach different demographics in your customer base. It’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Just target the sizes your customers wear. That way you can concentrate your strategy and investments for the greatest return.
Consumers are overwhelmed with choices, from multiple mobile apps to loyalty programs to traditional advertising. Companies must do the hard work to figure out the best channels and how to integrate them into their customer service eco-system. For most companies, a robust multi-channel strategy is a realistic option
5 Strategies for Omni-Channel Success
Know Your Customers
Your customers prefer some channels to others. Do the research to help guide your investments and strategies. Not every market will take advantage of text-messaging interaction, for example.
Every new channel in the customer service mix usually means a new budget line item as well. Instead of spending to cover all channels, focus on the channels that help you actually deliver better service. It’s more cost effective to spend to retain current customers rather than making big investments for customer acquisition.
Quality Over Quantity
Having the most channels isn’t the goal. The idea is to have the best channels for the customer. A company might focus on only a few channels in the digital landscape, but do them really well. Resist the temptation to join the latest hot app. It may be worth learning about them, but don’t necessarily go all in right away. Remember MySpace or Second Life? If you don’t, maybe that says enough.
Focus on Mobile
A mobile strategy should be the focus of a multi-channel strategy. Other platforms such as tablets and computers are stagnating, but smartphones are still going strong. A multichannel strategy should reflect everything you can do with a smartphone: voice, text, apps, and social media in some cases. If customers can reliably reach you via one channel on their smartphone, they don’t have to able to reach you in multiple ways.
Focus on the Experience
The real goal is delivering the best customer experience, not displaying your technical prowess or social media savvy. Engage with customers in a way that provides real service and real satisfaction. That will create relationships regardless of the channel. For multi-channel customer service success, focus on where your current customers are, and where they may be migrating. Provide customer service that actually makes their lives better, and customers will make return engagements a priority